May 262014
 
Bath

Bath

This little seating area is at the back of a garden, on the edge of some allotments. I’m not sure whether it’s part of the allotments, or part of the garden. Either way, it’s charming. I like the wildness of it.

It made me think of my own garden. A couple of weeks ago, it was home to some spectacular apple blossom, and a lawn that had become almost meadow-like, filled with daisies, dandelions and herb robert. Rubbish weather, too much work and a shoulder injury meant that I hadn’t been able to mow it. I kind of liked it like that, although I did feel that it was teetering on the edge of chaos.

My boyfriend mowed the lawn, trying to avoid the black and white bees* that were buzzing over it, and order was restored once more. But I’m not sure which version of the garden I preferred. As the garden develops, I’m going to keep some areas of long grass and create a proper mini meadow.

*I’ve subsequently discovered that the bees are Ashy mining bees, Andrena cineraria, which nest in lawns at this time of year. They pollinate fruit trees and nest in lawns. Another reason not to mow.

Jan 282014
 
Bradford-on-Avon

Bradford-on-Avon

Architects, eh? You can rely on them to come up with a triangle while mere mortals would have created a rectangle. Christian says he used three posts for his seating area instead of four because that’s all he could fit in his car. But I don’t believe him.

This isn’t the first architect’s garden I’ve seen that uses triangles – remember this garden, one of my all-time favourites?

 

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Sep 032013
 
Summerhouse

West Sussex

If I wasn’t perfectly happy with my own parents I would declare myself available for adoption by Angela and John, if they’d have me. They have an amazing house that you can imagine being featured in a Richard Curtis film, thanks to its utter cosy Englishness.

I was very taken with their summerhouse the first time I saw it, and when I stayed at their house last week I sat in it a lot. I’m now thinking that I’ll forgo a shed in my garden and go for something like this instead. To hell with practicality – who needs somewhere to store a wheelbarrow when you can lounge in an armchair instead?

Aug 302013
 

 

My garden_edited-1

Bath

This is my new garden. It’s 100 feet long, faces south east and – major life change ahoy! – is on the edge of Bath.

It’s taken me a very long time to get here. For ages I was looking for a flat in London, which was not at all easy on my small budget, especially as I wanted a garden. I saw dozens of dingy, overpriced flats at the furthest reaches of the Tube… and all the while I was slowly realising that I didn’t want to live in London any more. London is a great place, and I’m glad it was my home for many years. It’s surprisingly leafy, too, as I hope this blog shows. But as this blog also probably shows, I am hopelessly drawn to greenery, preferably in large quantities. I’m also drawn to growing as much of my own food as I can, slowing down a bit, and staring at fields of cows. None of which is really possible in London.

And so, to cut a long and (as my loved ones will undoubtedly confirm) boring story short, here I am. I can’t quite believe that I have a house, let alone a garden – finally. I’m trying to figure out how to deal with the slope from left to right and the rather large tree in my neighbour’s garden. And also how to make the most of the beautiful view (cows included). I will probably lose most of the lawn (which is a total bugger to mow anyway) and replace it with plants. A great many of them will be edible. I may have a shed. I’ll definitely have a greenhouse. I’ll try to incorporate many of the ideas that I’ve documented on this blog. If you have any ideas as to what I can do with it, do let me know – it’s a real blank canvas.

In the meantime, I can’t imagine walking past a lovely window box or visiting a garden and not taking a picture of it, so I’ll definitely carry on writing this blog. I might occasionally document my own garden’s progress too, if you’re interested. There are just two small hindrances: 1) I’ve become terribly addicted to Pinterest (for house and garden inspiration) and 2) I can’t stop staring at cows. But I’m sure the novelty will wear off soon.

 

 

Jun 232013
 
Brixton

Brixton

Here’s one of the best gardens I’ve seen in a long time. It belongs to Deborah Nagan and Michael Johnson, and it was open during the Chelsea Fringe. Deborah and Michael are architects and landscape architects and not surprisingly, their own space is pretty special. It has a cunning layout, classy hard landscaping (including some metal-edged raised beds) and a rill that eventually falls into a pond in the basement garden below. Like all cleverly designed gardens, it looks effortless, and works brilliantly.

The planting is deft, too – a mix of the traditional (foxgloves, peonies) and the contemporary (dark foliage, acid green flowers, and grasses). Edibles are used to ornamental effect – the bolted rainbow chard has an architectural quality all of its own and a screen of raspberry canes conceals the rabbit hutch, potting bench and compost heap. It’s a garden to linger over – there is so much brilliant detail.

Deb Nagan's garden in Brixton

And if that wasn’t enough, the front garden is pretty amazing too. It has raised beds, with some suitably architectural supports. Not what you expect on the busy Brixton Road.

Deb Nagan's garden in Brixton

Nov 052012
 

 

North Dulwich

This is Marcia’s garden, planted up just over a year ago by… me! When Marcia moved in, it consisted of the decking with gravel around the edge, plus a Fatsia japonica, a mahonia and a very large bay tree. Marcia asked for my advice over tea, and I ended up doing a planting plan for her.

In many ways it wasn’t an easy garden to plant up. For a start, Marcia’s budget was around £500. That sound like a lot but it doesn’t go far, even when you’re only filling a few square metres. We saved money by buying plants in the smallest possible size, and for the time being the perennials have outstripped the slower growing shrubs. There was also the orientation of the garden to consider – it’s largely shady (only the border on the right gets a decent amount of sun). There was no budget to alter the layout of the garden, or to do a proper survey of the site, so the gravel was removed and replaced with new topsoil.

Marcia wanted quite a contemporary look, so I dusted down my plant books and got Googling, and after a very long time spent dithering (if I was a full-time garden designer I’d be lucky to earn £1 an hour) I came up with a plan.

The garden has lots of plants with bold foliage such as bergenias, oak-leafed hydrangeas and ferns, and grasses such as Deschampsia and Stipa tenuissima  for texture. Hardy geraniums, Japanese anemones and sedums supply the flowers and Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa) and Trachelospermum jasminoides (on the sunny wall) provide the scent. I wanted Marcia to have an awareness of the seasons changing, so there’s spring blossom courtesy of a star magnolia and autumn colour from the Vitis on the back wall. Many of the plants should die back quite gracefully and many of the plants are evergreen, so Marcia won’t be looking out on to a sea of hard landscaping in winter.

You’re obviously not seeing it at its best (this pic was taken right at the end of October), plus the plants are still establishing etc etc. But all things considered, I’m pleased with it. And most importantly, so is Marcia.

PS The furniture is from John Lewis.

Oct 032012
 

Surrey

I was going to take this picture of Steve’s pond from a completely different angle, but an incident worthy of a You’ve Been Framed appearance put paid to that.

Steve is a colleague, and we were in his garden to take some shots of his greenhouse. While we were waiting for the photographer we did a quick tour of the garden, coffee cups in hand.

The garden is deceptively large and cleverly laid out, and home to this very large pond, which pre-dates the house. It’s overlooked by a pergola-covered deck, framed by wisteria and lined with colourful begonias.

Just after the pergola is a short, decking slope that leads to a path around the pond. As we stepped onto it, Steve pointed out that the slope was a bit slippery. He cheerily added, ‘We haven’t lost anyone yet!’. And then I slipped, landed on my bum and started sliding at a rather alarming rate towards the pond.

Everything then went into slow motion. My first thought was: ‘I’m going to fall into the pond. This is going to be embarrassing’. My second was: ‘Even more embarrassing, I’m going to be the first person ever to fall into the pond’. My third was: ‘I must hang on to this coffee’ and my fourth was: ‘Oh no, I’m going to crash into Steve.’ And that’s exactly what I did. I took poor Steve’s legs clean out from under him, leaving us both in a slime- and coffee-covered heap. Strangely, we were both still clutching our empty coffee cups.

I didn’t dare venture down the slope again, so I took this pic from the safety of the pergola. It doesn’t quite convey the Giverny-style scene I was aiming for, but hopefully you can get an idea of how charming it is.

Sep 072012
 

St Albans

For the last couple of years, my Mum and I have been tweaking a small border that sweeps in front of the seating area at the bottom of her garden. She wanted it to be low maintenance, drought tolerant (ha ha) and to provide a hazy screen, so we went for more of a prairie/New Wave style.

It’s early days, but I’d say the success of it has been mixed. Quite a few of the grasses haven’t thrived (in fact, they haven’t grown an inch since they were planted, despite assurances that they were suitable for clay) and quite a few plants (kniphofia, echinacea) have inexplicably died. Maybe I’m just a lousy designer (although in my defence, this was a case of tweaking rather than a full-scale redesign), but it hasn’t quite come together as I’d hoped.

I was interested, though, to read an interview with legendary garden designer John Brookes in the September issue of Gardens Illustrated. He doesn’t think this type of planting is suited to small domestic gardens. Maybe he’s got a point? The best gardens I’ve seen in the New Wave style – Trentham, Pensthorpe, Marchant’s Hardy Plants – are all pretty big.

Anyway, that’s my nephews, Max and Joe, in the background. Unusually, they are playing nicely together, recreating the opening ceremony of the Olympics with my mum’s old farmyard set.